Should You Drink Electrolyte Powder Without Stevia?
Should the best electrolyte powder be sugar-free or as deliciously sweet and energizing as coconut water? When you're choosing a beverage to fix your electrolyte balance, you might also look at the label to analyze how much sugar is provided per serving.
Mixed into plain water, electrolyte powders can contain more sugar than sports drinks. Others contain stevia, a sweetener derived from the stevia plant.
In this article, we'll explain whether stevia is good or not, what sweeteners and sugars are in Zest Electrolyte Powder, and other key nutrients you should always examine the label for.
Stevia: What Is It?
Stevia is a sweetener that's often used in zero sugar beverages, including electrolyte powder and other beverages designed to maintain your fluid balance. The organic stevia leaf is harvested from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, a species that grows natively in Paraguay and Brazil.1 Steviol glycosides, the active compounds in the leaf, are up to 300 times sweeter than sugar.
In the ingredients list, stevia is often listed as steviol glycosides rather than simply 'stevia'.
Once added to drinking water or an electrolyte beverage, it provides a sweet flavor without adding sugar. Stevia can be used as part of a balanced diet to reduce body weight.
Unlike artificial flavors and sweeteners, stevia is plant based too so it is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Furthermore, stevia sweeteners promote low blood sugar and low insulin levels, so it's compatible with a keto diet too.
Why Stevia Is In Your Electrolyte Drink
Many electrolyte drinks and traditional sports drinks are sweetened with stevia because:
- It's a plant-based, gluten-free sweetener that the vast majority of people can consume regardless of their diet,
- Allergies to stevia are incredibly rare and it is considered generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA,2
- Adding stevia to electrolyte powder instead of sugar can ensure it remains zero calories, which is great for dieters,
- It is heat stable and pH stable,
- The sweet flavor of stevia has a slower onset and longer duration than sugar.
Drinking electrolyte water is great for staying hydrated, especially after a workout when you have lost a lot of hydration and nutrition in your sweat. Learn more about the nutrients that you should replace after a workout with electrolyte powder in our article 10 Key Nutrients Electrolyte Powder Should Have.
Along with artificial ingredients and flavors, stevia allows you to rehydrate and nourish your body without ruining your diet or preventing a calorie deficit.
Benefits of Stevia in Electrolyte Drinks
The benefits of stevia in electrolyte drinks include:
- Stevia won't interfere with replenishing your electrolyte imbalance with rapid rehydration,
- It improves the flavor of the best electrolyte powders, like those at Zest, and satisfies a sweet tooth without adding calories. This is great for losing weight and combatting medical concerns such as obesity,
- Stevia could be beneficial for diabetics, as it has antihyperglycemic effects that will lower blood sugar, insulin and the high blood pressure associated with the condition,3
- Phenolic compounds in stevia leaves are strong antioxidants, meaning they prevent oxidative damage and hinder free radicals. This could potentially assist with preventing cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, however most studies have examined leaf extracts rather than the sweetener derived from the leaves,4
- Stevia may be beneficial for the liver too, with potential to treat acute and chronic liver diseases.5
While stevia sweetens your drink and may come with a few additional health benefits, it doesn't add to your electrolyte intake. In fact, the human body does not metabolize the glycosides in stevia at all, which is why it is a zero calorie substance.
Disadvantages of Stevia in Electrolyte Drinks
There are a few disadvantages to adding stevia to electrolyte supplements. Just because it is a keto friendly electrolyte powder, it doesn't mean it's going to be good for you!
- Stevia doesn't add to the key nutrients electrolyte recovery should contain. Vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes are far more beneficial,
- Sugar, often in the form of glucose, is added along with the five essential electrolytes to provide energy, not to make you gain weight! After a workout, replenishing glucose fuels our bodies and brains to continue with our day. So, replacing all the sugar with stevia isn't going to provide you with any energy or brain power,
- While mixing electrolyte powder into your water bottle should replenish hydration, stevia is a known diuretic. As a result, it increases the speed at which your body expels water and electrolytes through the kidney.6
Ultimately, adding a little stevia to an electrolyte powder will help boost the sweetness and reduce the calories. However, it doesn't add any nutrition to the beverage and replacing the sugar element entirely with stevia could actually be detrimental to your energy and hydration levels throughout the day.
Other Sweeteners Used in Electrolyte Powders
Unlike dietary supplements in pill form, electrolyte powder is tasted and even savored before it is consumed. As a result, numerous different sweetener options may be added to your electrolyte powder.
Just like stevia, these sweeteners aren't added to electrolyte mixes because they prevent extreme dehydration, it's purely for flavor and to reduce the calorie content of the beverage by replacing sugar.
Before you add your electrolyte powder to your shaker bottle, read the ingredients list and keep an eye out for any of these!
A good electrolyte powder will contain a small amount of sugar, even if it also contains a sweetener. Of course, your electrolyte powder shouldn't be as sugary as a fruit punch, but a sprinkling of sugar can actually do a lot of good.
Sugar, in the form of glucose, provides energy for your body and brain. Your brain is dependent on sugar as a fuel source, using up to half of all the sugar energy in the body, so if you're leaving the gym to go to work, replenishing your glucose supply is extra beneficial.7
Electrolyte replenishment is good for muscle recovery, but sugar can also be beneficial too. Letting your blood glucose levels drop below 70mg/dL can impede recovery - that's why carb-heavy foods (e.g. sweet potato) are popular post-workout snacks.8
So, while sweeteners are good for reducing the calories in an electrolyte powder, a small amount of sugar is not something to fear! We add 7g of pure cane sugar to all our electrolyte powders, to keep that lemon lime flavor sweet and your body energized.
Artificial sweeteners that are regularly used in electrolyte powders include:
- Saccharin - a heat stable artificial sweetener that's often used in a sodium salt form for an electrolyte drink mix so it is water soluble. You might know this sweetener better as Sweet'n Low,9
- Aspartame - one of the most tested food ingredients and popular as a sweetener as it reduces calorie intake and body weight in adults and children. It is often blended with saccharin for stability too,10
- Sucralose - twice as sweet as saccharin and three times as sweet as aspartame, sucralose is also known as Splenda and is a popular sweetener in the US and UK. Unlike sugar and stevia, sucralose doesn't impact insulin levels negatively or positively,11 and that's part of why we use it in our Energy and Focus powder packs!
- Advantame - this is a slightly more stable (and sweeter) version of aspartame. Advantame is relatively new to the market compared to other sweeteners, but is popular in beverages including electrolyte drinks.12
Sodium, potassium and other key electrolytes aren't flavorless. Citric acid (like the kind you get from lemon juice) can be sour and sodium citrate imparts a salty flavor, for example. Adding a sweetener to these key nutrients alleviates these potentially unpleasant flavors - that's why they're often included in sugar-free electrolyte powders.
Alongside, or instead of, artificial sweeteners, you may find other artificial ingredients in electrolyte tablets and powders. Artificial flavors are incredibly varied and can be used to produce a wide range of electrolyte powder tastes.
At Zest, we aren't a fan of artificial flavors. Natural flavors can also add nutrition to a beverage, through essential minerals, vitamins and other nutrients besides flavor compounds. Artificial flavors are lacking these, but they may add sweetness alongside a sweetener.
Ultimately, it's the electrolyte component that helps your body absorb water, but finding a naturally flavored drink is preferable for most people. Look for plant-based, flavor-free, or naturally flavored beverages.
At Zest, our flavors are Lemon Lime for hydration and recovery, Blackberry Lemonade for hydration and energy, and Pineapple Blueberry for hydration and focus.
While the best electrolyte powder is already perfectly sweet and delicious, not every electrolyte drink is made equal. If the sweeteners aren't sweet enough, or you've managed to avoid all sugar and sweeteners possible, there are other ways to boost the flavors and key nutrients of your beverage.
Adding fruit and other ingredients to your water along with the electrolyte powder adds sweetness that you can more easily control. Try adding:
- Citrus fruit slices - lemon and lime for sharpness, orange and grapefruit for sweet tartness,
- Ginger slices - fresh ginger is fiery and adds warmth, plus it's a great anti-inflammatory ingredient,
- Mint leaves - naturally sweet and fresh, spearmint or peppermint leaves can be infused with your electrolyte powder and water.
While your electrolyte mix should already have all the key nutrients your body needs, adding some additional flavor ingredients can keep your routine feeling interesting and new.
How Electrolyte Powder Works
With or without sweeteners, provided naturally in coconut water or supplemented in the form of electrolyte powders, electrolytes always work in the same way. The best electrolyte powders will contain a generous amount of each of the electrolytes below per serving, along without nutrients (e.g. vitamin C) to boost recovery, prevent muscle cramps, and rehydrate your body at a cellular level.
Key Nutrients Electrolyte Recovery Requires
The nutrients, vitamins, amino acids, and electrolytes in your electrolyte supplement may be in a variety of formats. For example, rather than just 'magnesium' you might see 'magnesium citrate' and instead of 'vitamin C', you might find 'ascorbic acid' listed in the electrolyte mix ingredients.
Different formats are sometimes used in your electrolyte powder to ensure they are stable and are water soluble, so you can dissolve them into your bottle of water for rapid hydration.
Three key electrolytes to look out for include:
Electrolytes, particularly sodium, are key for preventing moderate dehydration. Water moves by osmosis into cells that have a high concentration of sodium, so by replenishing the sodium you've lost through sweating or a low sodium diet, you can help your cells retain hydration rather than just flushing it straight through your body.13
Sodium in an electrolyte drink may be in the form of sodium citrate, like in our Zest Hydration Electrolyte Powder. Along with essential vitamins like vitamin B12, it's great for helping your body find the right balance of hydration and replenish the water and nutrients lost through perspiration.
Like sodium, potassium promotes hydration through osmosis, almost like a cellular transport technology that moves water into cells around your body. However, potassium in electrolyte powder is also beneficial for your muscles.
Your muscles require potassium to contract, increasing and decreasing K+ ions as you exercise and recover.14 Replenishing potassium can therefore aid muscle recovery and prevent spasms or cramps, like leg cramps, after intensive exercise.
Consuming potassium in an electrolyte drink sweetened with stevia is also good for your cardiovascular and respiratory systems. You can get potassium from your diet, as trace minerals are found in numerous foods like bananas, however an electrolyte drink is also a good way to quickly replenish potassium levels after a workout.
Many electrolyte drinks also provide chloride - there's 200mg of chloride per serving in every lemon lime Recovery & Hydration Powder at Zest, for example - for hydration and to maintain your pH balance.
Closely linked to sodium, the best way to replenish your chloride levels is with an electrolyte powder rather than a natural product, like coconut water. This is because electrolyte mixes allow you to see exactly how much of each electrolyte is present.
Consuming electrolytes like chloride before a workout or after a workout can ensure you won't lose fluids excessively and become dehydrated. Maintaining your pH balance is also important for overall health - from your kidneys to your lungs, many organs depend on a steady pH of around 7.4 to function correctly.15
The Benefits of Sweetening with Stevia and Sugar
At Zest, we put both sweetener and pure cane sugar in our electrolyte powders, along with vitamin C, B vitamins, and all the electrolytes you need per serving. Here is why:
- Adding sugar to the vitamins and minerals creates something of a liquid IV that boosts your brain and energizes your body,
- Sweeteners helps us keep the calories low while the flavor is still nice and sweet, so it won't ruin your diet,
- Stevia is one of our favorite sweeteners. It is plant-based and gluten free. This is completely in-line with our philosophy at Zest. Learn more about what we do with plant-powered formulas and unique amino acids by reading Who We Are.
By using both stevia or sucralose and sugar, you can boost your energy without getting a sugar high and still enjoy a tasty sweet beverage.
Discover Zest Electrolyte Powder
Zest Electrolyte Powder combines stevia or sucralose, sugar, electrolytes and vitamins to create a super hydrating beverage to replenish your body. With separate formulas for recovery, energy and focus, there's 700mg of electrolytes provided per serving. All you need to do is mix them up with plain water.
You can use an electrolyte drink mix to replenish after a trip to the gym or just a hot day - we lose electrolytes naturally as time goes by, especially when we sweat. By adding stevia or sucralose to our electrolyte drinks, we have found a plant-based way to sweeten our flavors without going crazy with the sugar!
Hydration and Recovery uses stevia, while our Focus and Energy electrolyte packs use sucralose.
Check out all our Electrolyte Powders at ZestTea.com.
Is stevia a good sweetener?
Yes! Quite a few electrolyte powders use stevia as it is a plant-based, natural sweetener that's up to 300 times sweeter than sugar. Unlike added sugar, it's zero calorie and won't add too many carbs to even the best electrolyte powder. Along with vitamin C and numerous other nutrients designed to boost your health and wellbeing, we add stevia or sucralose to our Zest Electrolyte Powders.
What sweeteners are in electrolyte powder?
All the best electrolyte powders taste good, and many use sweeteners to achieve this. Saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose are well-known sweeteners, but stevia is also popular too as it is zero calorie, gluten-free and plant based. Only a tiny amount of stevia is needed per serving in electrolyte drinks, as it is incredibly sweet.
What are the side effects of stevia?
Only a very small amount of stevia is added to electrolyte powder per serving, and the FDA has analyzed it and given it generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status. Scientific studies looking at stevia in a drink mix and discovering side effects have largely been disproved too.
Potential side effects include low blood pressure and low blood sugar (when levels are already too low in your body), gastrointestinal symptoms if you have hypersensitivity to sugar alcohol, and an allergic reaction.16 These side effects are incredibly rare and stevia is just as safe and delicious as added sugar.
Should I avoid stevia?
Stevia is added to numerous beverages and supplements, it is plant-based, keto-friendly, gluten-free and approved by the FDA. It's included in most of the best electrolyte powders to boost the sweetness without the calories. Unless you have an allergy, avoiding stevia is unnecessary. However, you can find unsweetened electrolyte tablets and powders that don't contain stevia.
Is there sugar in Zest electrolyte drink mix?
Yes! We add a small amount of sugar to our electrolyte powder. This adds a sweet flavor and also fuels your brain and body. Learn more about what we put in our electrolyte drinks in our article All About Zest's Fasting Electrolyte Powder. Even with added sugar, the total calorie count per powder stick is only 35 calories.